Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas v. The Beatty Family: A Case of Sleds, "Star Search", and Serious Overcrowding

Opening Statement

Good morning, everyone. So glad you could make it out on this chilly December 25th, 2010.

Christmas is that magical time of year when anything and everything seems possible. Everywhere you look people are talking about compassion, love, and spreading what they call "The Christmas Spirit" (which is, I have learned through the years, really just code for "The Way We Should Live Every Single Day of Our Lives", but I digress). Anyway, people are smiling, hot cocoa and candy are available in abundance, and for once in their lives even NYers seem to feel that it's alright to wear a monochromatic suit and a red stocking cap with a little pom-pom stuck on top. Meanwhile I saw not a single PETA volunteer on the street in protest of the obvious cruelty inherent in forcing artic deer to pull a fat guy in a flying sleigh into some seriously tropical climates. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is truly a Christmas miracle.

But even with all that aside, there's another reason why I really do adore this particular holiday. That reason, of course, is simple. Because for an inventive little kid with an overactive imagination and a knack for making up stories (even if said stories never make it beyond her own head, as is often the case), Christmas is, to put it mildly, A.Gold.Mine. No joke.

Or maybe it's just in MY family that Christmas is not only the most wonderful, but also the most comical, time of the year. Seriously, if something weird is going to happen (and trust me on this one, with my family something weird IS ALWAYS going to happen) there's at least a 75% chance that it will happen on or around Christmas Day. Coincidence? Maybe. Bad luck? Nope, I don't think so. Personally, I'm going to go with the theory that God finds us amusing, and therefore we're just a really great birthday present for his Son. You know, just a thought.

Anyway, I can tell you're not fully convinced, which means that I'm going to have to give you hard evidence to make my case. So sit back and enjoy, ladies and gentlemen of the Christmas jury, and please remember that the eggnog in the jury room is most likely spiked due to counsel's slightly wicked sense of humor. Enjoy.

Exhibit A -- The Runaway Sled:

One of the first Christmases I remember fully was in Colorado. At the time, we were what you might call "between houses" (we had just moved back to the state from TX) and I was probably about 4 or 5. Which, of course, made my sister slightly older -- she was somewhere either 6 about to turn 7, or 7, about to turn 8. But age aside, Christmas that year was AWESOME! Santa brought us both matching red sleds (a big deal in snowy Colorado) and we were super excited to try them out. Unfortunately, there were no hills in the vicinity, but no matter -- we lived on a mountain! And our driveway sloped straight down at basically a 90 degree angle! What luck! No need to ask permission, right? Mom and dad won't mind!

What follows is a pretty predictable story: girl meets sled, sled meets driveway, driveway meets truck. Ow. Note that my older sister was NOT on the sled at the critical moment for reasons that remain a point of contention (I think she sent me down as a guinea pig, she thinks I insisted on going first -- both are equally possible). Needless to say my mother wasn't too worried about the blame-game when a man approached her front door with me sobbing in his arms and uttered the phrase "I didn't mean to run over your daughter." Cue the ER, which I promptly decided was a great place to stop crying, stand up, and practice my "jazzercize" moves. Mom claims this was embarrassing. I think the only embarrassing part of the story is that any of us were into "Jazzercize." Ever. Hello, 1980s!

Exhibit B -- The Clumsy Reindeer:

And if, after that harrowing tale of driveways and jazz hands, you still require further evidence, please direct your attention to our next true story of Christmas Past. This one comes slightly later in the chronology, my guess is that I was around 7-8 at the time and my sister closer to 9-10. But even if I don't remember the exact year, I DO remember quite vividly the gift that my sister wanted.

See, my fashion-designer-in-the-making sister didn't want a sewing machine or a box of colored pencils. Nope, she wanted an official "Star Search" karaoke microphone with real voice enhancement and colored lights. Shrinking violet, she is not. Not to mention that this was the late 80s/early 90s, when everyone even semi-cool was perming their hair and lip syncing along with Milli-Vanilli. So of course, Santa wanted her to get this coveted mic (lucky us, right?) and he tried valiantly to deliver it on Christmas morning.

Okay, big guy. Let's just say that you get an "A" for effort on that one and pretty much a D- on actual performance -- though that last grade might be a little generous.

Santa did in fact deliver the gift. But he also tried to set it up, in which process the gift was ruined to the point where it no longer worked. It was, quite literally, a microphone with no microphoning capabilities. And I know, I know, it's not the gift but the thought that counts, but try telling that to a 9 year-old whose toy doesn't work. So Santa did what any reasonable fat guy with a liability problem would do in a bind:

He blamed it on Rudolph.

Turns out that clumsy reindeer had STEPPED ON my sister's gift. Never mind that it was delivered to an apartment with no chimney. Never mind that there was no snow in Houston and no good reason for a reindeer to slip. And really never mind that Santa should have left some time in his schedule to make a quick pitstop at K-Mart just in case. Nope, the reindeer did it, plain and simple. I know because I read it in the note Santa left by the eaten cookies. "Sorry about the Star Search Toy - Rudolph stepped on it. But I will tell your Daddy to buy you a new one. Merry Christmas." Um, thanks, Santa. Hey, at least you won't have to pay the elves any overtime for this one, right?

Exhibit C -- An American Christmas in Paris:

And finally, esteemed jurors, I could hardly allow you to make your decision without hearing the story of the famous Christmas in Paris, which sounds sweet and romantic (and was indeed a lot of fun), but might also top the charts for craziest Christmas ever.

The scene: Paris, an apartment on the Champs Elysee, temporary home to my parents, my grandmother, myself and a friend from Colorado, my sister, and about 35 of my sister's friends from both the US and her study abroad program in Spain. At one point I was more or less sure that I was actually living in a youth hostel done up to LOOK like a single-family apartment. But no worries, my friend and I went on the Paris Metro to purchase a small tree. It was "decorated" with whatever was handy and topped with a cheesy (um, make that CLASSY) souvineer tour eiffel. Fantastique.

Meanwhile, my dad became obsessed both with seeing every sight in Paris at the cost of our collective sanity (Note to self: do NOT allow dad to purchase "best of Paris" ever again, or similar book for another country. Ever.) and the idea of a traditional bouche de noel (literally Christmas Log, or Yulelog - a rounded, log-like cake with filling). Forget that most people under 30 in the house spent a significant amount of time in the pizzeria down the street and that we were all of legal drinking age in Europe, which made things...interesting. The Champs Elysee, meanwhile, had turned into a full-on carnival for the millenium celebration (my sister believed the Eiffel Tower would "lay an egg" at midnight. Seriously. She thought that.) and it was pretty much impossible to do a headcount at night without instituting strict roll call a la Little Orphan Annie or a military academy.

Luckily, Christmas proceeded (and most of the houseguests actually left right around Christmas Day, I believe), but the day after (also known as my parents' anniversary) brought a massive windstorm that uprooted trees, closed the Metro, and did serious damage to several French landmarks - including the windows of the Sainte-Chapelle. Major bummer. Our vacation is literally still a topic of conversation for many Parisians, although I'm pretty sure they're not referring to the damage we personally caused. Or at least, I hope not.

If so, I am TOTALLY blaming Rudolph.

Closing Argument

There is more evidence, of course, like the time the dog (the family dog - not Sampson) got a raincoat and hat for his "present" and caused the cat to freak out, the "Christmas bush" we once used to celebrate in San Francisco, and the fact that I for years insisted that a very tacky multicolored foil pine cone with fake snow be placed in a prominent position on our otherwise pretty tree. (Of course, now I'm old enough I have my own tree, and the lights are indeed multicolored. So there.) Most families I know watch "A Christmas Story" so that they can laugh at the ridiculous antics of Ralphie and his family. Not my family though -- we watch it because we relate. Quite honestly, it wouldn't surprise me one bit if I end up with a pink bunny suit one of these years. I have some very crafty aunts, after all.

And so, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case. I know that if you consider all the evidence before you, you too will arrive at one simple, indisputable fact: Christmas with my family is, without question, a ridiculous, crazy, silly, wonderful, miraculous, beautiful day.

In short, we are guilty as charged. And I wouldn't have it any other way.


Merry Christmas, Happy Winter, and a Peaceful New Year to all our beautiful readers.

Piper and Sampson Bear Beatty

1 comment:

  1. Piper, Loved your stories of Christmases past! :)

    That reminds me of the year, at the bequest of my Dad, that I wrapped a brick for my Brother, and the other year (again at the Dad's insistence) I wrapped a SET mousetrap for said brother. ;) I believe that was an attempt to induce more cautious gift opening than the frenzied package unwrapping which was the norm.

    And then there's the family tradition (from Bavaria) of gluing hats (dunce caps made from Christmas wrapping paper, held on with a dab of Uhu) on the chickadees. Invariably one gets loose which brings on a barrage of shrill Irish doomsday and bad luck warnings from my Mom... while us kids frantically run for the switch to turn off the ceiling fan... But it's always amusing to watch the hatted birds come calling to the bird feeders, some adorned with hats, for the week between Christmas and New Years. :)

    Ah, Tis the Season!
    Very Merry Christmas to you Piper. :)